by Tall Poppy Jacqueline R. Sheehan
Historical fiction is my first love and Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees) is at the top of her game with The Invention of Wings. Here’s the thing with fiction that is inspired by historical events; we sort of know what will happen, at least in the big picture. For example, we know that slavery in the early days of America was inhumane and yet changing the course of this atrocity was rejected on many fronts. But in the hands of this skilled writer, the story was so compelling that I wanted to do nothing else but read this book. Nothing. I was even at dinner with friends and said, “Sorry, but I have to leave and go home to read this incredible book.”
Sue Monk Kidd did an enormous amount of research about slavery in 19th Century Charleston. And perhaps the story grabbed me so thoroughly by the throat because my first novel focused on the life of Sojourner Truth, a 19th Century slave in New York State. My admiration beamed for a writer who could tell a gripping tale of emotions, inner conflict, and desire all while increasing my understanding of two worlds, that of the slave and the slave owner.
Handful is an eleven year old slave owned by the Grimke family. Sarah is the eleven year old daughter of the Grimke family who rebels against slavery and suffocating patriarchy. Their braided lives kept me on the edge of my seat.
Jacqueline Sheehan, Ph.D., is a New York Times Bestselling author. Her novels include, The Comet’s Tale a novel about Sojourner Truth, Lost & Found, Now & Then, and Picture This, The Center of the World, and The Tiger in the House. She writes NPR commentaries, travel articles, and essays including the New York Times column, Modern Love. She edited the anthology, Women Writing in Prison. Jacqueline has been awarded residencies at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland, Jentel Arts Colony, and Turkey Land Cove. She teaches workshops at Grub Street in Boston and leads writing workshops in Guatemala, and Scotland.